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Tag: weird US history

Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in the same photo

History is full of strange coincidences, and the Civil War is no exception. In the 1950s, Stefan Lorant was researching a book on Abraham Lincoln when he came across an image of the President’s funeral procession as it moved down Broadway in New York City. The photo was dated April 25, 1865.

At first it appeared like one of any number of photographs of Lincoln’s funeral procession, until he identified the house on the corner as that of Cornelius van Schaack Roosevelt, the grandfather of future President Teddy Roosevelt and his brother Elliot.

The coincidence might have ended there, but Lorant took a closer look. In the second=story window of the Roosevelt mansion he noticed the heads of two boys are peering out onto Lincoln’s funeral procession.

Lorant had the rare chance to ask Teddy Roosevelt’s wife about the image, and when she saw it, she confirmed what he had suspected: the faces in the windows were those of a young future President and his brother. “Yes, I think that is my husband, and next to him his brother,” she exclaimed. “That horrible man! I was a little girl then and my governess took me to Grandfather Roosevelt’s house on Broadway so I could watch the funeral procession. But as I looked down from the window and saw all the black drapings I became frightened … [ Read all ]

FHF: The Beard Gap

In the history of Presidential elections, there has never been a battle of the beards. Beards have challenged mustaches. Mustaches have challenged clean-shaven candidates. Clean-shaven candidates have challenged beards. But never in the history of our republic, have two bearded candidates duked it out on the campaign trail.

This is startling for many reasons. One, beards are awesome, and have experienced a sort of renaissance as of late. Two, statistically speaking, the beard is more “electable” than a baby face.

Look at the numbers. In Presidential elections, bearded candidates have only faced off (ha!) with clean-shaven candidates in five elections. In three of them—1868, 1872, and 1876—beards took the White House. That means the odds are with you if you run with a beard.

Year Victor Runner-up
1856 Clean-shaven Beards
1864 Beard Mustache
1868 Beard Clean-shaven
1872 Beard Clean-shaven
1876 Beard Clean-shaven
1880 Beard Mustache
1884 Mustache Beard
1888 Beard Mustache
1892 Mustache Beard
1908 Mustache Clean-shaven
1912 Clean-shaven Mustache
1916 Clean-shaven Beard
1944 Clean-shaven Mustache
1948 Clean-shaven Mustache

History buffs will be quick to point out that the 1876 beard win was something of a technicality. The oh-so-heavily bearded Rutherford Hayes lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote (Florida was the deciding state), putting his beard in office over the clean-shaven Samuel Tilden. Still, Hayes won, making beards tops in elections.

What’s … [ Read all ]

Before Playboy, there was Flossie

Sixteen-year-old boys loved her. Parents of 16-year-old boys did not.

Yes, long before Hugh Hefner donned his trademark smoking jacket, before Larry Flynt shocked a nation with Hustler, there was Miss Flossie Lee. In the 1890s, the Augusta, Maine, entrepreneur ran Art Photo Co., a corporation that promised to send photos of “the best female models” for a buck. Purportedly, the photos of scantily clad women were intended for “art studies, and as models for the student in figure work, or the young artist who finds the living model a too expensive luxury. . .”  But what they really were was porn.

Judging from the documents at the National Archives at Boston, Miss Flossie Lee was the victim of her own success. She operated without any evident complaint in Maine, then she decided to go for the big time. “I am the acknowledged belle of my own city, and have beaux by the score,” she writes in an ad, “but wish to extend my acquaintance over the whole country.” The trouble was that shipping obscene material across state lines was a Federal offense.

Congressmen complained. The Assistant Attorney General was peppered with letters from the Post Office inquiring what sort of action could be taken against Miss Lee and her “forbidden circulations.” One man wrote the Secret Service Department in the U.S. Post Office asking … [ Read all ]

Where was the Navy born?

Tomorrow there will be a spirited debate at the USS Constitution Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, will be there. So will senior archivist Trevor Plante. They are convening at the museum that honors the world’s oldest floating commissioned Navy vessel to settle once and for all a centuries-old debate: where was the Navy born?

We here at POH want your input. We’ve laid out the arguments for each town that claims it is the true birthplace of the Navy. We need you to read them and then cast your vote or add your two cents into the mix. You can either respond on our blog here, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter with the hash tag #navybirth.

Let the debate begin!

  • Machias, Maine, June 1775: two small sloops armed with woodsmen capture the Royal Navy schooner Margaretta.
  • Beverly, Massachusetts, September 1775: George Washington authorizes a ship, Hannah, to harass British supply ships.
  • Marblehead, Massachusetts, September 1775: The Hannah is outfitted with a Marblehead crew, and owned by a Marblehead resident.
  • Providence, Rhode Island, October 1775: The small state’s delegates are the first to propose a resolution to build and equip an American fleet.
  • Philadelphia, October 13, 1775: the Continental Congress votes to outfit two sailing vessels. This is the original legislation out of which the Continental Navy was born.
  • [ Read all ]

Gesundheit!

When it comes to casualty statistics, we often compare wars. In World War II, it’s estimated that 50 million were killed. During the Civil War, over a half million people lost their lives. In World War I, nearly 16 million were killed.

There was one war that topped nearly all those charts. It happened in 1918, when the human race was fighting off the flu. Fifty million people died. One-fifth of the world was infected. In one year, the average life expectancy in the United States dropped 12 years because of the virus. Town meetings were canceled due to the flu, and one future President was worried when his wife came down with symptoms.

You can see startling images and documents relating to this epidemic in our online exhibit “The Deadly Virus: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918.” This exhibit is just one of many online exhibits available at your fingertips from the National Archives.
[ Read all ]